Highlanders put down play-off marker
SUPER RUGBY SPOTLIGHT: It hardly reregistered on the New Zealand media scale - given the hype surrounded the decisive third Test between the All Blacks and the British & Irish Lions.
However, the Highlanders put down an important marker when they demolished the Crusaders 33-12 in a mid-season friendly in Timaru on Thursday.
Given that the two teams may well meet in the quarterfinals, this is a significant result.
Admittedly, both were without their All Blacks - which probably affected the Crusaders' pack most.
Having lost a pre-season match and two heart-breakers during the regular season to the unbeaten Crusaders, the Highlanders will go into the play-offs with some belief.
The final round of regular season action is scheduled for next weekend, before the play-offs kick off and things get serious.
Depending whether the Crusaders finish first or second and the Highlanders nab seventh or eighth, a quarterfinal clash in Christchurch on July 22 is a real possibility.
For the Highlanders:
Tries: Li, Stark, Dixon, Ioane, Smith
Cons: Smith 4
For the Crusaders:
Tries: Havili, Gawler
Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Manasa Mataele, 13 Seta Tamanivalu, 12 Sean Wainui, 11 George Bridge, 10 Mitchell Hunt, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Jordan Taufua (captain), 7 Jed Brown, 6 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 5 Mitchell Dunshea, 4 Quinten Strange, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Tim Perry.
Replacements - from: Andrew Makalio, Chris Gawler, Oliver Jager, Jonno Osbourne, Shannon Frizell, Bryn Hall, Marty McKenzie, Braydon Ennor, Jone Macilai, Vernon Fredericks, Digby Ioane.
Highlanders: 15 Josh Ioane, 14 Gavin Stark, 13 Sio Tomkinson, 12 Rob Thompson, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Fletcher Smith, 9 Kayne Hammington, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 James Lentjes, 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Jackson Hemopo, 4 Tom Franklin, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Ash Dixon (captain), 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Replacements - from: Greg Pleasants-Tate, Flynn Thomas, Aki Seiuli, Craig Millar, Guy Millar, Alex Ainley, Joe Wheeler, Elliot Dixon, Adam Knight, Dan Pryor, Josh Renton, Liam Howley, Teihorangi Walden, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Jona Nareki.